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Reality TV for Scientists

It seems there is a reality TV show for virtually every type of person or profession.

From Alaska king crab fishermen to surviving the outdoors to living the life of a privileged housewife, you name it and there is a show about it.

So why not a show on the challenges and antics of people who make their living in biotech and research?

Sure, the daily routine of a day in the life of a research scientist can be boring and monotonous in parts, but so can being locked in a house with 10 flaky people for weeks on end.

From what we have seen even the most boring day can, with some clever editing, be made into entertainment.

So how about…

The Apprentice: 10 people who think they have what it takes to be scientists, but are actually super-incompatible social misfits specially selected by the producers, vie for a place in the lab of a nobel prize winning scientist. To prove their worth they have to perform a series of completely unrealistic experiments and when they fail spectacularly, they are fired.

Big Brother: A Drosphila-on-a-wall view of a lab group locked in 24-7 for three months. Bitching over coffee, showdowns with the PI and fighting over bench space. It’s going to get messy.

Research project with the stars: B-list celebrities become first year graduate students and experience rotating through three labs, presenting their work to their department and trying to meet all of the expectations of any other PhD student. Watch them struggle with error bars and statistics, freak out at the MSDS for dihydrogen monoxide and laugh at their tantrums when the acetone destroys their manicures.

Lab Swap: Two graduate students who think they have it bad swap places with each other and really see what a dysfunctional lab is like. Personalities clash and pipettes fly as things heat up over which radio station gets played and whose turn it is to wash dishes. In the end they come back to their original group with a new understanding of the saying “the grass isn’t greener on the other side”.

Hell’s Lab: 10 Z-listers who claim to be passionate about science (anything to get on TV) have to learn the ropes in order to survive working in the lab of an English PI with a neuropsychiatric disorder that causes him to swear profusely.

America’s next top molecular modeler: A group of wannabe bio-computing geeks compete for a prestigious fellowship at the NIH Centre for Molecular Modelling. Watch as their gurus test their knowledge on everything from molecular mechanics and maximum entropy formalism to machine algorithms and computer clusters. Watch out for the swimsuit section. It will bring tears to your eyes.

Deadliest Project: Life in a category 3 lab. You definitely don’t heat your coffee in the microwave in here. This documentary follows the lives of the brave scientists who live on the edge, battling pathogens and viruses in the most deadly of labs. You will never look at blue cheese in the same way again.

BioTech Sales Rep: The cameras are rolling as our hot-shot biotech sales representatives are profiled in their daily routine. The frustrations of the job are clear as PIs cancel meetings without notice, grad students show up “only for the food”, and purchasing agents badger them over the cost of shipping. Watch and laugh as they struggle to maintain their professionalism. Great TV.

The Science Bachelor: Watch as 12 science groupies vie for the affection of a scientist with a massive h-index. Contestants try to impress their intended with contests such as who can clone the longest piece of DNA and who has the highest efficiency qPCR standard curves with the most consistent triplicates. Each week one groupie is asked to hang up their lab coat, put away their pipettors and walk away with their dreams shattered forever.

Nick and I had great fun coming up with these ideas for science-related reality TV shows.

Got any ideas of your own? Let us know in the comments — we could be onto the next big thing here!

11 Comments

  1. we voted for a REALITY TV STAR on January 19, 2019 at 2:19 am

    no respectable scientist would ever do these shows. reality TV is like watching monkeys fight at the zoo. if they are serious scientists, they wouldn’t throw their careers down the drain by doing REALITY TV. just my opinion sorry.

  2. Micro Biologist on December 5, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    Conan O’Brian gave it a shot:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i66W-u6061o

    (youtube “Biochemistry with the Celebrity Stars”)

  3. Suganth Kannan on June 27, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Dr.Kennedy,
    I like the dream, we want a reality show for us!!
    Check out my company website http://www.mathforus.us
    Regards
    Suganth

  4. Elena Bibikova on February 25, 2012 at 7:09 am

    What a great article! I would love to watch all of these! For now, I get my weekly dose of nerdy fun from The Big Bang Theory 🙂

  5. Suzanne on August 21, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks Jess!
    If any producers call us, I’ll be sure to let you know!
    Have a great weekend,
    Suzanne

  6. Jess on August 21, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    O my! This is hilarious!! I would probably participate in all of these or have some nerdy scientist friends who definately fit the mold…..Thanks for the laugh and if you decide to actually do these give me a call 🙂

  7. Suzanne on July 14, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Hi Max,
    That sounds really cool! I wish we could see it.
    Another friend suggested the ABC show “Better Off Ted”. It’s not a reality show but a sitcom about a biotech company.
    It looks pretty funny.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.
    Suzanne

  8. Max on July 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    This comes close: It combines reality TV and science (though rather technological): Stars of Science

  9. Suzanne on July 13, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Doug,
    Did any of them make you laugh? They weren’t serious…except maybe Biotech sales rep. That is a show I’d like to see.
    Anyway, most people don’t understand what we do. That’s where a show about us would be educational.
    And a mixture of creative editing and quirky personalities can make any topic funny or interesting. And we all know that scientists have a lot of quirks.

  10. Doug on July 13, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Many people already think our work is uninteresting, why would we want to confirm it?

  11. Melodee Patterson | Virtual Assistant on July 10, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for starting my day off with a good laugh! I would watch all of these – especially Lab Swap 🙂

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